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For those individuals unhappy over the appointment of Lisa Murkowski to the U.S. Senate, I think it is time to move on to the real issues facing our state and nation: that is, homeland security, national security, reforming social security, and so on. Lisa has to face the voters in 2004 and will be judged on her record.
Sen. Murkowski has a big advantage in being a member of the Senate majority. She is smart, articulate, knows the political process and was popular with members of the Alaska Legislature in both parties, where she served two terms.
Lisa is our first senator to be born in Alaska (Ketchikan), and the late Congressman Ralph Rivers - a Democrat who served several terms in the U.S. House - was born in Flat, Alaska.
Gov. Frank Murkowski faced a very difficult decision picking who he felt was best to take over his seat in the Senate. Just a few days before Christmas, I had a letter from our new senator and she expressed how she was looking forward to the next legislative session and assuming her new role as House majority leader. I really do not believe she had an idea she would be appointed senator.
While there have been a number of negative letters against her appointment, many have been from Juneau District 3, one of the few Democratic strongholds left in Alaska. Al Gore carried only District 3 in the last presidential election.
The views regarding Lisa from the Interior have been mostly favorable. The Dec. 21 issue of the Anchorage Daily News had a special section on congratulatory messages, including a full-page ad entitled, "Working families have a good friend in U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski." No, this ad was not signed by members of the Chamber of Commerce or business groups, but by 100 labor unions throughout the state, including the Juneau Mental Health Association Local 6134 and Juneau Education Support Staff. Virtually every occupation you can think of was mentioned in the ad.
I believe our new senator has wide support crossing all political parties. The Alaska Republican Party is a large tent and all factions of the party came together to defeat Fran Ulmer by a wide margin.
Sen. Murkowski will have to run for election in 2004, a presidential election year. Alaska is increasingly becoming more and more Republican, and only one Democrat (Lyndon Johnson) has carried our state in a presidential election. Also, the present field of Democratic hopefuls are all united in their opposition to drilling oil in ANWR and few have shown any real sympathy for Alaska developing its natural resources and building roads. In the last election Alaska made it quite clear where they stand on building roads, economic development of our natural resources, etc. The Alaska Democrats may qualify to fall under the Endangered Species Act; the future for them doesn't seem very bright.
Lisa Murkowski is going to be judged on how she handles her job. Historically, about half of appointed senators are able to get elected to their first elected senatorial term. Those who won did so by their records and not how they were appointed. President John F. Kennedy suffered no lasting effect when he appointed his brother Robert as attorney general.
Sen. Murkowski and Gov. Murkowski need our support and prayers as they face many serious problems in our state and nation. The Democrats should not underestimate Lisa's abilities and it is so nice that a woman was chosen as our senator based on qualifications and not gender.
Ralph Swap, a lifelong Juneauite, is a retiree and Republican Party activist.